Hearing loss affects approximately 47 percent of adults in the United States over the age of 74. In fact, roughly 36 million adults suffer from some form of hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). The leading cause of hearing damage is environmental noise, including exposure to loud noise. According to the NIDCD, about 15 percent of Americans aged 20 to 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to loud sound exposure.
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can take many forms.
- Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is conducted inefficiently from the outer ear canal. This results in an overall reduction in sound, which is commonly caused by ear infections, fluid in the middle ear from colds, allergies, impacted ear wax, a perforated eardrum or a foreign body in the ear. ASHA reports that conductive hearing loss can be treated with medicine or surgery.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is brought on by ear damage or damage sustained to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. This makes it difficult to hear faint sounds. The condition is typically caused by aging, head trauma, family history, loud noise, illness, certain drugs or malformation of the inner ear.
- Mixed hearing loss refers to a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. For every 1,000 children born in the United States, approximately two to three suffer from a hearing issue at birth. This includes deafness.
Advancements like cochlear implants represent a major step forward in treating conductive hearing loss. Cochlear implants involve a surgical implant behind the ear, as well as a wire that’s threaded into the inner ear. An external mechanism is worn on the outside of the skin. They work to stimulate the auditory nerve in people with severe hearing loss. Other hearing assistive technology include hearing aids, assistive listening devices, captioning and other implantable devices.